From Parsonage to Parsonage 

Born in 1888, Max Krakauer ran a major film distribution company as of 1918 in Leipzig, where he met his wife Karoline (“Ines”) Rosenthal. Earlier than many other Jewish businessmen, he was forced to sell his company in 1933, and subsequently worked at a poorly paid job as a travel representative. The Krakauers moved to Berlin in 1939. Their plans to emigrate failed. Only their daughter Inge made it to England in 1939.

The Krakauers were in forced labor when, on January 29, 1943, they barely escaped deportation. Desperate, they contacted an acquaintance, Hans Ackermann, a Protestant Christian who brought them to Wilhelm Jannasch, a pastor who was active in the Confessing Church. Jannasch advised them to hide in rural Pomerania, as many Jews had already gone into hiding in Berlin. He referred them to parsonages of the Confessing Church there. Ackermann gave them his expired postal ID card and replaced his photograph with Max Krakauer’s. He drew in the missing part of the stamp. The Krakauers used this primitively forged ID card to embark on a risky journey on March 9, 1943, at a time when ID documents were often checked on trains. After they had gone through all possible lodgings in Pomerania, they had to return to Berlin in the summer of 1943.

Pastor Theodor Burckhardt later referred the Krakauers to Kurt Müller, a pastor in Stuttgart. In 1943, Müller set up a support network together with other clerics of the Protestant state church who sympathized with the Confessing Church. More than forty pastors’ families and people they trusted formed this “parsonage chain” in Württemberg, which succeeded in saving roughly thirteen Jews. Some of the participating clerics were already being observed by the Gestapo because of their critical views, including Theodor Dipper of Reichenbach, Richard Gölz of Wankheim, and Otto Mörike of Flacht.

In order to minimize the risk faced by the helpers, Max and Ines Krakauer, who called themselves “Hans and Grete Ackermann,” stayed for only a short time at each location. They usually were introduced as a “bombed-out couple from Berlin” and were “passed on” every few weeks or days. Their presence was somewhat less conspicuous because parsonages often had guests anyway. After more than 800 days on the run and after many separations, Ines and Max Krakauer were liberated by the U.S. Army on April 21, 1945. They remained in Stuttgart after the war.

The fact that they owed their survival to the courageous aid of numerous Germans facilitated their decision to stay in Germany after the war. Almost all of their relatives had been killed in concentration camps. Max Krakauer described the different stations of their underground life in his book Lichter im Dunkel (Lights in Darkness), which was published in German in 1947.

Haigis, Peter. Sie halfen Juden: Schwäbische Pfarrhäuser im Widerstand. Stuttgart: Evangelische Gemeindepresse, 2007.
Krakauer, Max. Lights in Darkness, translated by Hans Martin Wuerth. Stuttgart: Calwer, 2012; first published in German in 1947.


  • Confessing Church

    Confessing Church

    This church opposition to the Protestant Church’s forced conformity with the Nazi regime was founded in 1934. It rejected having Christians of Jewish descent excluded from the church. In all state churches except in Württemberg, Bavaria, and Hanover, there was a schism between “German Christians” who were loyal to the regime and supporters of the Confessing Church. Many Confessing Church pastors were imprisoned.



  • People who were “bombed out”

    People who were “bombed out”

    Starting in 1943 more and more people lost their place of residence through air raids. Many Jews in hiding took advantage of this situation. By claiming to have been “bombed out,” they received “Aryan” papers and food ration coupons from the authorities, who could no longer check people’s claims since so many documents had been destroyed. This improved their chances of survival.